Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has accused Azerbaijan of preparing for a new military attack on Armenia.
The PM wrote on Twitter on Monday that Azerbaijan was ‘continuously attributing its own ceasefire violations to Armenia’ which he said was a ‘pretext for new military aggression'.
Both sides have accused each other of breaking the ceasefire on an almost daily basis in recent weeks, and a war of words over the restoration of transport links has intensified.
On Monday, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence said Armenia was ‘concentrating additional personnel’ and artillery units near their positions, which the Armenian Defence Ministry said was a response to a similar buildup from Azerbaijan.
On Monday, Pashinyan also stressed the need for a permanent international mechanism for border security and permanent peace.
A civilian EU observer mission of 40 people is currently being deployed to the Armenian side of the Armenia–Azerbaijan border. The mission was agreed by Pashinyan and Aliyev at an EU summit earlier in October.
On Tuesday, Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan said the country had also applied to the OSCE to deploy an observation mission to the Armenian side of the border. He said a decision was expected to be made soon.
EU High Representative Joseph Borrell had previously suggested that the EU mission could be a provisional measure before an OCSE mission was approved.
Aliyev, who agreed to cooperate with the EU mission, said during his speech on 14 October that he had rejected attempts to deploy observers to the Azerbaijani side of the border.
A dispute over transport links
The latest accusations come as a dispute about the nature of restored transport links in the region has heated up.
The tripartite agreement between Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia that brought an end to the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War in November 2020 included the ‘unblocking’ of economic and transport links.
According to the agreement, Armenia would guarantee the security of ‘unobstructed movement of persons, vehicles, and cargo in both directions’ between western Azerbaijan and the exclave of Nakhchivan. Russia’s Federal Security Service would be responsible for ‘overseeing the transport connections’.
The agreement also said that ‘new transport links’ would be built with the agreement of both parties between western regions of Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan.
On Monday, Pashinyan said he had proposed the opening of three border checkpoints between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
A draft resolution uploaded to the Armenian Government’s e-draft website proposed opening checkpoints in Sotk, in the eastern Gegharkunik Province, in Karahunj, in the Southern Syunik Province just south of the town of Goris, and in Yeraskh, a town just south of Yerevan on the border with Nakhchivan.
The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry responded angrily to Pashinyan’s proposal, accusing Armenia of creating ‘fake pretexts’ to avoid its commitments under the November 2020 agreement to ‘link auto/railroads through the Zangazur corridor’.
‘To suggest three unrealistic options of checkpoints for connectivity ignoring a 20 months-long discussion is not a good policy’, the statement said.
Armenian officials have in the past accused Azerbaijan of attempting to establish a sovereign corridor through southern Armenia between western Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan, a prospect they have vehemently rejected.
In a series of tweets on Tuesday evening, Pashinyan remained defiant.
‘Can anyone find any mention of a “corridor” referring to the territory of #Armenia in the [November 2020] Trilateral statement? Of course no!’, he said in one. ‘Is there any mention of a “corridor” in the [November 2020] Trilateral statement? Yes, and it’s the Lachin corridor to #NagornoKarabakh. That’s the only one.’
‘Is there any unilateral obligation of #Armenia to construct new roads btw west regions of 🇦🇿 & Nakhijevan in the [November 2020] Trilateral statement? NO! Could it happen upon agreement btw 🇦🇲 & 🇦🇿 . YES! 🇦🇲 is ready to do it according to its legislation. Positive reaction of Az. is needed’, he said in another.
‘The tweet below and the reactions to it prove that no one can blame #Armenia for avoiding its obligations. I reiterate that we are ready to open 3 checkpoints to fulfil our obligations & work towards utilising opportunities arising from comprehensive unblocking of the region’, another said.
The details of what both sides are asking for in the negotiations relating to the reopening of transport links remain unclear.